Computer science vs. software engineering

  • #26
Those who don't take the math dept.'s version of the course get mostly "trickle down" Abstract Algebra in the form of data structures and formal languages.
Not really. Data structures is fundamentally about how algorithms reflect the underlying data structure, Languages is fundamentally about the capacity of programming languages to express computation.
  • #27
Computer science, like Biology or Mathematics, is the study of nature. Specifically that branch of nature concerning algorithms, processes, and information. It can be very abstract & academic, but it's especially rich in applications. I think Dijkstra remarked that computer science is to computers as astronomy is to telescopes. The computer scientist sees the computer as a tool, through which one discovers truths about the universe. Some have remarked that just as computer science is not about computers, it is also not a science. But I don't hold that view. It is no less a science than is Mathematics.

Software engineering is the study of human organization, emphasizing how to marshall technology to solve problems. Programming is fundamentally a human activity, with a few or a great many humans working in concert. The software engineer is asked to find the harmony among budgetary limits, political constraints, heterogeneous skill levels, and deadlines. Remember, engineering is not a science, and engineering decisions are seldom if ever made scientifically. A command of technical issues is essential for a software engineer. But over the long haul of a career, the soft skills of persuasion, effective communication, and team building will prove at least as important.

Whimsically, the computer scientist gets paid to solve yesterday's problem with tomorrow's technology, while the software engineer gets paid to solve tomorrow's problem with yesterday's technology.

About 20 years ago, a Nobel laureate in Physics remarked that in a hundred years Computer Science will finally be recognized as a subdiscipline of Physics. I think it would be interesting (given the work of Stephen Wolfram) if the opposite turned out to be true.
  • #28
Gold Member
subdiscipline of physics? interesting...

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